The Monsoon session of Rajya Sabha is likely to be held in August last week or September first week with most of the members being physically present while others joining virtually from parliament premises only, sources said. With a consensus emerging on holding hybrid sessions — physical and virtual platforms — the members would be allowed to be seated inside the chamber as well as the galleries while others would join on web platform from either Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium.
A meeting chaired by Rajya Sabha Chairman and Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu on Friday discussed in detail various options to conduct the proceedings of the Upper House in the Monsoon session as members would have to observe the norm of physical distancing. “The broad position that emerged was to enable seating of members of Rajya Sabha in the chamber and the galleries of the House in conformity with the norm of physical distancing and to enable virtual participation of other members from either the Central Hall or Balayogi Auditorium in the Parliament House premises. The Lok Sabha is also expected to follow the same,” said an official.
The chamber and the galleries of Rajya Sabha can accommodate 127 members while maintaining physical distancing norms. In the monsoon session, all galleries, except the media gallery, would be utilised for seating the members. Even for media, the seating in the gallery would be in conformity with the physical distancing norm for which guidelines would be issued.
Earlier in the day, one of the options the secretaries general of both houses suggested to the presiding officers was holding of hybrid sessions, as both chambers of Parliament building facing space constraint to accommodate all the MPs for a session keeping the physical distancing norms. The National Informatics Centre (NIC) that provides the cyber infrastructure for the Indian government cannot enable capacity for the virtual participation for all the members, they added.
“Limited virtual participation is being considered in view of the capacity constraints of NIC at present to enable such virtual participation of all MPs,” said the source. The NIC currently has only 500 dedicated lines.
In Friday’s meeting Naidu emphasised on the need to upscale the capacities for larger virutal parliament sessions in future. “The chairman said the effort shall be to enable participation of the members in the proceedings from within the House to the extent possible through appropriate planning,” sources said.
In order to enable the viewing of participation of the members from outside the chamber of the House through virtual participation, big screens would be arranged both within the chamber of the House and outside as required. The final modalities for the seating of the members inside the chamber and the galleries — where only 127 can be seated — would be prepared soon. The seating arrangements would be based on the strength of various parties in the House. Naidu has directed the officials to prepare the appropriate plan for this or any other effective criteria like preparing a list of the participants in the proceedings of the House for the day who would be accommodated accordingly.
The meeting between Naidu and the officials also discussed other issues like taking up of Question Hour, voting in the House if required, administering oath/affirmation to the newly-elected members, detailed planning for transportation of members, effective measures for physical distancing and sanitisation etc. A detailed action plan on this regard will be submitted by next week.
Meanwhile, parliament functioning, which was halted due to Covid-19 lockdown in March, has started returning to normalcy earlier this week with the Committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) meeting physically in Parliament Annexe. According to Lok Sabba website, the next meeting of a parliamentary committee will take place on July 10.
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